There may come a time when you need to open an envelope that is sealed without anyone knowing you have done so. Perhaps you wish to surprise your significant other with concert tickets but want to verify the tickets are correct before you give the gift. In a less cheerful scenario, maybe you are involved in a sticky divorce and wish to open an envelope addressed to both you and your spouse without your spouse knowing you have done so for legal reasons. Fortunately, there are methods you can use to do so covertly; keep in mind, however, that it is not actually legal to open someone else’s mail without their knowledge.
Before You Begin Opening a Sealed Envelope
Before you begin opening a sealed envelope in secret, be sure you are aware of the applicable laws. Never open someone else’s mailbox or touch their mail. This is a crime. In addition, opening mail addressed to someone else is against the law, whether or not they know you did it.
Furthermore, these laws are not waived just because someone lives in your household. You should not open an envelope addressed to your spouse, child or parent if they are unaware you are doing so. While there are ways to open an envelope covertly, doing so could lead to conflict, or worse, legal issues, particularly if you are already involved in a divorce, custody battle or other legal difficulty.
Secretly Open Envelopes With Steam
There are several methods for opening sealed envelopes. The first of these involves steam. Boil water and put the envelope near the steam to melt the glue on the envelope. You can use a spoon to change the direction of the steam or diffuse it so it does not hurt the paper to as great an extent.
Note that using steam to open an envelope can permanently damage the paper. While you may succeed in making it seem as if the envelope wasn’t ripped open, the envelope may look wet, wrinkly or warped. If you really need to open an envelope without anyone knowing, this method might not be ideal.
Open Envelopes With a Sharp Object
You can also use a sharp object to open an envelope. A blade like a knife or letter opener, if thin enough, can be slipped underneath the envelope flap and gently slid along the edge. This will allow you to open the envelope without it ripping.
Take care when using a sharp object to open an envelope that you do not cut yourself or slice through the contents of the envelope. In addition, it is possible to accidentally slice through the top fold of the envelope, so take care to guide your path with purpose while slicing open the envelope.
Re-Sealing an Envelope
Once you have successfully opened an envelope in a covert manner, you will need to re-seal it to ensure no one notices it was opened. Be sure to let the envelope dry completely if you used steam to open it before you attempt to close it again. You may also wish to place a book on top to help it dry flat.
The glue native to the envelope will have lost its potency, so you will need to close the envelope with fresh adhesive. You can use a glue stick for minimal mess. You can also use wet glue, which may stick a bit better. Be aware, though, that this glue may smear outside the line or the envelope. It may also leave a glue bead line, which could be visible through the envelope flap.
Opening somebody else's mail without their permission could be mail tampering, a federal offense. Reserve your use of this technique for times when you can't wait to see what your loved one wrote on the birthday card you accidentally found in a briefcase, or you can't remember whether you put the check in with the electric bill and don't have another prepaid envelope.